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Stanislaus County considers proposal that would bring new life to former animal shelter

Stanislaus County will enter a lease-purchase agreement for a business to provide animal care, boarding and training at the former animal shelter on Finch Road in Modesto. Photographed in Modesto, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019.
Stanislaus County will enter a lease-purchase agreement for a business to provide animal care, boarding and training at the former animal shelter on Finch Road in Modesto. Photographed in Modesto, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. aalfaro@modbee.com

The former animal shelter on Finch Road in Modesto could once again house furry friends.

In addition, it could provide job training for people trying to break their addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Tuesday, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors took a step toward approving a lease-purchase agreement for a group to operate the former county shelter as a small-animal care facility.

The county shelter was operated at the site, at Finch and Mitchell Road, from 1973 until the county and partner cities opened the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency facility on Cornucopia Way in March 2011.

The old shelter has sat vacant, and suffered from vandalism, since the Wags and Whiskers nonprofit rescue group discontinued its services there in the latter part of 2016.

Shane Parson and a group of community-minded people from Ceres and Modesto recently brought a lease-purchase proposal to county officials.

Under the proposal, a group called Parson Partners would renovate and refurbish the old shelter. The cleanup and renovations are expected to take a year and will give the group more time for developing plans for the animal care facility, Parson said.

The Finch Road facility could hold 70 to 80 dogs and cats, Parson said. There’s a local need for more overnight kenneling, and Parson also is talking with a veterinarian about providing part-time services at the site.

The center will provide training and education, Parson said, and some rescue and adoption services could be offered at a later date.

Parson operates two sober living homes, each for 20 to 25 people, and has experience running a horse-boarding facility in Ceres.

His proposal to the county includes vocational training for adults in recovery, who will learn dog handling, general maintenance, cleaning and other work skills. Parson said some trainees might aspire to work as veterinary technicians.

“We are always looking for job-training for them,” Parson said. “Some of them work at the horse-boarding facility.”

The group will create a new limited liability corporation for managing the Finch Road site. The boarding, training and other services should generate income to make the facility self-sustaining, Parson said.

With Tuesday’s board decision, the county will begin a process of purchasing Modesto’s half interest in the property for $375,000, minus repair and real estate costs not expected to exceed $25,000. The city Planning Commission could approve the proposed use next week.

In October, county supervisors will consider giving final approval to the purchase agreement with the city and the lease-purchase deal with Parson’s group.

After the new animal shelter opened on Cornucopia Way, the county in 2013 leased the Finch Road facility to Wags and Whiskers, which held dogs and cats at the no-kill shelter.

The rescue organization’s three-year lease expired July 31, 2016, and the group chose not to continue its services there. The site was declared as surplus property and was offered for sale by the county, but the highest bid came in well short of the appraised value of $750,000.

Parson said the new care facility is a year from opening because of the extensive cleanup and renovations required at the rundown Finch Road center.

Parson said he oversaw a similar project in Ceres in which a former county Office of Education facility was refurbished for the Center for Human Services.

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